US Election: Nothing to lose

My present macro speech is titled « Ugly: Don’t fight with ‘ugly’ people as they have nothing to lose ».

To me, this is the essence of the US presidential campaign. The ugly truth surrounding this ballot lies in the bigger picture, as whomever becomes president will go down in history as the « non-president » – the president who made us need, see, and demand something else.

For all of the colourful headlines, and the almost McCarthy-esque pursuit of Trump by mainstream media, this is not going to be about « Trump, the person » or his more or less moronic views; Trump merely represents the catalyst for change. He is the anti-establishment candidate, yes, but not our vision for the future.

Ultimately, Trump may still win despite (rather than because of) being… Trump.

That does not excuse mainstream media for not going after Clinton. If elected, she will be the least-liked president in US history, and I doubt any of her policies will do anything good for America.

More Barack Obama-type policy is not what the world needs. Obama may have created more jobs, but the average income for American has actually fallen during his presidency. What does this mean? It means he has presided over an economy that has created more jobs but less valuable ones, and growth during his tenure has been lower than during any other president, with the largest build-up in debt.

I am pretty sure that even this economist could create jobs with the amount of money Obama has spent!

Total US public debt:

US public debt
Source: Federal Reserve

Mind you I am 100% agnostic, politically-speaking. In fact, I don’t even think this election really matters! No, this is not a new trend; no, Clinton is not the answer… but what this is a generational repositioning and renegotiation of the social contract.

The last time that this happened was in the 1960s, when the children of World War II went for peace, love, and a lot of drugs. Now we have the Berlin Wall generation coming of age, and this time the focus is anti-globalisation and anti establishment sentiment… and yes, again a lot of drugs.

The real election issue in America, but also in Europe. is how to deal with a broken social contract. Society has been pushed so far away from its natural equilibrium in terms of markets, social homogeneity, equality, and productivity that the move back to « normal » will bear both a political price and a penalty in terms of growth and outlook.

Put differently, when we look throughout history we know that part of the process of evaluation is to smell, feel, taste, and experience what we don’t need in order to move towards what we do – a better version of society, but mainly a better one of ourselves.

The next election cycle is about protest; it will be followed by crisis and then new beginnings.

I firmly believe, and have repeatedly focused on the fact, that we as human beings need to fail in order to create a mandate for change. With regards to this dynamic, the US presidential campaign comes up short in many categories except one: failure is almost guaranteed.

If Clinton wins, the probability of a recession increases immediately and big business with return to a ’70s-like state under a Politburo-esque White House.

If Trump wins, we will have taken the fast track to massive political upheaval as the end of the Democratic/GOP monopoly on politics shifts towards a social agenda against globalisation, openness, and trade… the only good thing to come out of such a change would be the fact of change itself.

This US elections will not have any winners, only losers – but don’t despair. The US and the world economy will come back, and with surprising strength, but the political timeline is now finally aligned with the economics malaise created by central bankers. By this I mean that the corresponding low points in politics, economics, interest rates, and inflation, and the high points in terms of financial asset valuation and inequality, are coming to an end.

Volatility and uncertainty will be high the next over the next nine months (through the German election) but in the end, talk must cease and reality must reassert itself.

This is the best news of all. By accepting that the social contract is in dire need of being corrected, we could see a strong V-shaped recovery as early as the US midterm elections of 2018.

Voters are the ones with nothing to lose, not the ugly. This time around, change is what they crave; understand this and you will navigate the next election cycle with confidence.

Election 2016
This is a protest election, and the US and the world likely have some choppy seas to navigate before things calm again. Photo: iStock

  • US election less about Trump or Clinton policies, more about need for change
  • Obama administration has seen debt balloon, proliferation of low-value jobs
  • ‘The real issue is how America will deal with the broken social contract’
  • Volatility, uncertainty to remain high into the 2017 German election

— Edited by Michael McKenna

Steen Jakobsen is chief economist and CIO at Saxo Bank

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